Magazine article USA TODAY

The Quiet Man: The Indispensable Presidency of George H.W. Bush

Magazine article USA TODAY

The Quiet Man: The Indispensable Presidency of George H.W. Bush

Article excerpt


The Indispensable Presidency of George H.W. Bush



2015, 392 pages, $28.99


John Sununu undertook writing The Quiet Man: The Indispensable Presidency of George H. VI. Bush from an informed perspective. As a three-term governor of New Hampshire, he had known Bush long before his presidency. He assisted Bush during the GOP primary and, from 1989-92, faithfully served as chief of staff. Sununu consulted the Bushes, who gave full support to the book: "Go to it," Bush said. Sununu believes many of the senior Bush's accomplishments continue to be unappreciated. Uniquely privy to know "everything as it happened in the Oval Office," Sununu hopes to expand the knowledge people have of the "unsung but highly consequential presidency."

Bush has attributed much of his private and public demeanor to his mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, whose influence ranked "greater than that of anyone else in his life." Her edict "never brag about yourself" challenged him to create successes about which he could "modestly refrain from [boasting] and leave that to others." Both his "impeccable upbringing" and his excellent education, particularly at Phillips Andover Academy, were "a huge influence on his life."

To uphold his family's tradition that people of means should give back to a society good to them, Bush entered the political arena. In 1966, Texans from the Seventh Congressional District elected him to the House of Representatives, one of two Republicans in Texas' 23-person delegation and, in 1968, he easily won a second term. Bush maintained a good relationship with Pres. Richard Nixon, who appointed him United Nations ambassador in 1970, and made him chair of the Republican National Committee in 1973. In the last days of Nixon's presidency, Bush worked closely with president-to-be Gerald Ford, who named Bush envoy to China in 1974 and Director of the CIA in 1976.

Following Vietnam, Watergate, and Church committee reports, Bush worked to rebuild the country's confidence in the CIA. Bush's understanding of the CIA-Congress relationship and his "intellectual and emotional" appreciation of the CIA staff "helped him through the rest of his career." At the 1980 Republican National Convention, Ronald Reagan chose Bush for his running mate, and the Reagan-Bush ticket produced a landslide victory.

Early in Bush's vice presidency Sununu suggested Bush cultivate a "governor-centric" relationship with Republican governors: a personal and political give-and-take would benefit a presidential bid, and governors could provide excellent resources for domestic policy. Later, as president, Bush maintained contact with Republican governors to whom he listened as he worked to "reinvigorate the role of states in the federalist compact," giving them increased flexibility and authority. Among governors, Bush chose Sununu to chair the 1988 Republican National Convention platform committee.

Pres. Bush, who always tried to exceed expectations, wanted to "dramatically change the world." He first faced "a chorus of discordant voices" between Reagan's Administration and Congress' military aid to Nicaraguan Contras; Reagan's defense buildup had "overstressed the budget, and the economy was paying the price"; then the Savings & Loan crisis erupted. Bush fostered cooperation with a "very partisan Democratic congressional leadership" to create solutions with "long-lasting and far-reaching positive effects."

Bush implemented the Brady Plan (converting bank debt into marketable bonds), which revitalized economies across Latin America and the Western Hemisphere. The plan created the environment for the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The decade of the 1990s produced unprecedented growth.

An expert at framing results and negotiations with no losers, only winners, Bush brought European allies and the Soviet Union close to reapproachment. …

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